Sarah Ford | March 9, 2015

Disrupting Business for Social Responsibility

By Ryan Scott

Q: What is disruptive innovation?
A: Depends on who you ask.

The blogosphere is so stuffed with discussion about disruptive innovation that there’s now a mobile app that replaces the overused word “disrupt” on every web page.

In a Wall Street Journal piece, Mark W. Johnson refocuses the disrupt-ive conversation around the true meaning of disruptive innovation. Here’s what he says that disruptive innovation is not: being better than what currently exists, or being cooler, faster, based around a more advanced technology or any new technology at all.

Quoting his business partner Clayton Christensen, the architect of and the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation, Johnson writes that disruptive innovation is simply one that “transforms a complicated, expensive product into one that is easier to use or is more affordable than the one most readily available.” A disruptive product opens up a market that wasn’t being served by offering a simpler, more accessible or more convenient option. “You know an innovation is disruptive when a new population has access to products and services that previously were only affordable for the few or the wealthy.”

As a social entrepreneur focused on leveraging capitalism to accelerate social impact, I’m most interested in disruptive innovation as it applies to improving the world.

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